Although July 2 isn’t as well known to baseball fans as July 31, it is nonetheless an important date on Major League Baseball’s calendar. With July 2 begins a new international free-agent signing period, which stretches all the way until June 15 of the ensuing year. Teams spent Tuesday officially agreeing to terms with countless teenagers from the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Panama, and other Latin American countries.
The basic rules to keep in mind — and the teams don’t always keep them in mind — is that a player 1) “resides outside of the United States, Canada or Puerto Rico and has not been enrolled in high school in any of those locations within the past calendar year” and 2) “is at least 16 years of age or will turn 16 years of age prior to Sept. 1 of the current signing period,” per MLB.com. Further, each team is allotted at least $4 million in bonus pools, with the exception of the Atlanta Braves, .
The Baltimore Orioles, Arizona Diamondbacks, Cleveland Indians, Colorado Rockies, Kansas City Royals, Pittsburgh Pirates, San Diego Padres, and St. Louis Cardinals each had more than $6 million to spend. You can check out the full list of spending pools and rules by clicking here.
Now, let’s highlight six things you should know about this year’s July 2 crop.
1. Yankees sign highly touted Dominguez
According to most publications, Dominican outfielder Jasson Dominguez was the best player available this class. Dominguez was so well-touted that ESPN’s Jeff Passan wrote a lengthy profile of him on Monday, detailing why he’s called the “Martian,” among other interesting tidbits.
The parts of Passan’s piece likeliest to raise eyebrows? The comparisons some baseball officials make concerning Dominguez’s upside. There’s a general manager saying he’s a bit like Mike Trout, except better at this age; another person saying he’s like Mickey Mantle due to his speed and power; and yet another executive saying he’s the best July 2 player he’s ever seen.
In a move that’s all but certain to increase Dominguez’s buzz, he signed on Tuesday with the New York Yankees for more than $5 million. Whether or not he can live up to the hype will be seen. He’s someone to keep in mind over the next couple of seasons all the same.
2. Athletics splurge on Puason
The Oakland Athletics aren’t typically thought of as high rollers, but on Tuesday they inked switch-hitting shortstop Robert Puason for more than $5 million.
Puason was ranked as the No. 2 player in this class, behind Dominguez, according to MLB.com. Their report on him suggested he could develop into a prospect with five average or better tools, and the chance to stick at shortstop for the long haul.
3. Cappe remains unsigned
The top international free-agent who hasn’t signed is Cuban shortstop Yiddi Cappe.
Cappe, 16, ranks No. 7 on MLB.com’s list due to his potential for four above-average or better tools. There’s been speculation he may wait until next year’s period before signing, including from ESPN’s Keith Law. Law thinks he’s more likely to sign with the Miami Marlins next July 2 for “something like $3.5 million.”
Cappe at one point described himself in his Instagram bio as a “professional baseball player for the Miami Marlins.” Maybe it was a joke, maybe it wasn’t, but it’s something to keep in mind if he does indeed end up with the Marlins.
4. A weak pitching market
People of good taste and high culture are known to prefer pitchers to hitters. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the signing period for those people.
MLB.com didn’t rank a single pitcher in the top 15, and had just two listed in the top 19: Venezeulan right-handers Andry Lara (Washington Nationals) and Brayan Medina (San Diego Padres). MLB.com’s list did include four other pitchers in the 20-30 range, but between this and how the top of the draft played out, it’s clear that this isn’t the year of the young arm.
5. Orioles sign 27
It’s a new day in Birdland. The Baltimore Orioles are almost never active in the international market, yet on Tuesday they signed 27 players as part of a renewed effort under Mike Elias.
None of the 27 received seven figures, and the Orioles did not sign anyone who ranked inside MLB.com’s top 30. Based on how the international market works, it’s fair to assume most of the work was done before Elias even came into power in Baltimore.
But still, for longtime Orioles fans, this is a different kind of July 2 experience.
6. White Sox sign Tatis’ brother
Here’s a bittersweet one for Chicago White Sox fans. The club inked Elijah Tatis, son of Fernando and brother of Fernando Jr.
Fernando Jr. was, of course, once a White Sox prospect himself. The club traded him during the 2016 season to acquire James Shields. He’s since blossomed into one of the best young players in baseball. The White Sox can only hope this Tatis (who was not among MLB.com’s top 30 prospects) does the same — preferably with the White Sox.